Public Lecture: Transformative Potential of Data-Driven and Context Driven Approach in Shaping Interdisciplinary Breakthroughs

The University of Embu in Kenya bore witness to a remarkable event on August 24, 2023, at Charter Hall. The event, titled “Collaborative Research to Maximize the Potential of Data-Driven Approaches in Interdisciplinary Breakthroughs,” was a public lecture aimed at fostering knowledge and innovation synergy. It drew a diverse audience and underscored the critical role of collaboration and data-driven research in tackling contemporary challenges. Notably, this public lecture marked a significant milestone in Dr. Marilyn Ronoh’s 2022 Early Career OWSD Fellowship. The financial backing from the University of Embu (UoEm), in conjunction with UNESCO, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD), and the Mawazo Institute, played a pivotal role in its success. The public lecture served as a crucial public engagement event, one of the key deliverables in the UNESCO-OWSD funded project.

The public lecture kicked off with a captivating presentation presentation by the researchers of Innovate AI Health Lab, featuring Dr. Marilyn Ronoh, Dr. Victoria Mukami, Dr. David Mugo, and Dr. Consolata Gakii. This interdisciplinary team from the University of Embu provided showcased the HIV chatbot, a remarkable artificial intelligence tool designed to provide vital HIV/AIDS information and support to the Kenyan youth. Following this enlightening presentation, the distinguished guests took centre stage to share their wealth of expertise and experiences in harnessing data-driven methods and collaborative research to drive forward ground breaking interdisciplinary advancements. Professor Dr. Anna Matuszyńska, a Computational Life Science Expert hailing from RTWH Aachen University, Germany, and her co-presenter, Mr. Marvin Van Aalst, a Computational Biologist representing Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany jointly  painted a vivid picture of their groundbreaking work on modeling tomatoes. Professor Faraimunashe Chirove, a Mathematical Modeling Expert from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa highlighted how interdisciplinary collaboration and data-driven research have the potential to unlock new frontiers of knowledge and innovation, challenging traditional approaches to problem-solving. Dr. Otho Mantegazza, a Data Scientist Expert from Milan, Italy, delved into the non-technological hurdles commonly encountered in digital development projects stressing the necessity of clear communication to bridge the gap between the technical and non-technical stakeholders in these projects. Finally Dr. Caroline Mose, Director of Programmes at the Mawazo Institute shared insights into how diverse teams of researchers could reimagine research, innovation, and problem-solving, resulting in more efficient and context-driven solutions.

In this public lecture, these brilliant minds from Kenya, Germany, South Africa, Italy, and beyond wove together a narrative of innovation, collaboration, and the transformative power of data-driven approaches. Their stories inspire us to look beyond the confines of our fields, embrace  change, and work together to address the challenges of our time. The lecture resounded with a powerful and actionable message: a rallying cry to forge purposeful collaborations that break free from disciplinary constraints and traditional research boundaries. It urged the promotion of open science and open data practices across all fields, emphasizing the importance of disseminating research findings with the wider public, not just within academic circles. The message underscored how the abundance of accessible data today can act as a catalyst for global-scale breakthroughs.

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